Eat Like a Local in Amman, Jordan

Food & Wine, Jordan, Middle East, Restaurant Reviews — By on December 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm

By Brittany Gowan, LG Foreign Correspondent

A crispy falafel patty, hot shawarma in flat bread, or a bowl of smooth hummus makes my stomach ache for a snack. Living in NYC has exposed me to decently authentic Middle Eastern food, and it’s my dinner choice more nights than not. When I got the chance to visit two close friends in Amman, Jordan this fall, I found myself almost more excited about the food than all the historic sights I would see. It you’re headed to the Middle East with hopes of experiencing local life and amazing food, Amman is a welcoming, interesting, and tasty city to visit.

For more than 40 years, Al-Quds Falafel has served up a delicious falafel sandwich for around $1. The secret recipe draws locals and tourists alike. Besides great falafel, this take out joint is on Rainbow Street, which has many interesting shops and great views of the city to enjoy as you savor your sandwich. Located near the 1st Circle on Rainbow St. in Jabal Amman

Hashem is one of the most famous local restaurants in Amman. A stop at Hashem is quick, quaint, and exemplifies local flair. If you have one meal in Amman, I suggest you make it Hashem. A hungry patron can order a hearty meal with bread and tea for about $1.50. This eating spot is cheap, and also lets visitors sample some of the regions favorite staples. Hummus, falafel, and fuul, which is a fava-bean paste, are served along with pita. It’s a friendly place so don’t be surprised if you are sharing your table with strangers. Faithful followers venture here, so if you have an empty seat at your table, you might just meet a new friend. Al-Amir Mohammed St. Downtown Amman

Close to Hashem is a dessert shop called Habibah that is famous for serving up Knafeh. This traditional Arabic sweet is made with soft cheese, a pastry covering, and topped with crushed pistachios. It’s a very rich and filling dessert, which quickly became one of my favorites. Habibah Alley Downtown Amman

Another dessert heavyweight is Zalatimo Sweets, which sells tins of various assorted goodies. From baklava to burma—a pastry filled with cashews and laced together with special syrups—this store offers a tasty gift for loved ones, or a great sample of the best sweets of the region. Tins of these treats are priced around $ 25. 5266 Amman

If your budget allows for a more elegant dining experience, plan an evening at Fakhr el Din. This highly favored, Lebanese-inspired restaurant has plenty of mezze (small dishes) to choose from, and many traditional BBQ style main courses. This classy experience will satisfy both your eyes and your mouth. Reservations recommended. 40 Taha Hussein St. Jebel Amman

Reem is the stop-and-go place in Amman for shawarma, marinated meat wrapped tightly in a pita. Fans stand patiently in lines that begin during lunch and last into the wee hours of the morning.  Each sandwich is only about $1. Plus, you’ll get a culturally diverse eating experience: Most likely you will wait in front of a businessman and behind a doctor who is talking to a construction worker. Amman’s second circle.

Al Quds restaurant features Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. This dish is lamb served with rice and cooked in a sauce made from fermented dried yogurt. Large sheets of flat bread lay across the top. This dish is a unique mixture of  tart and creamy yet very appealing and like nothing I have tasted before.  Mansef is eaten and enjoyed with your hands. King Hussein St. Downtown Amman

Besides delicious regional food, Amman offers an array of international menus. Locals frequent Milano for an Italian food fix, where the Chicken a la King is among the favorites. Shmeisani Amman

For meat lovers, Fire of Brazil is a perfect choice because the food is great and each table is given a red and green card to indicate if they want more. The buffet is about $22. Mecca Street East of Al Haramain Circle Amman

You can have a great time eating like a local in Amman!

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